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May 25, 2010

Airplane Noise Threat Abolished!

 
 
 

News that the planned third runway at Heathrow has been abolished, as one of the first of Coalition Chancellor’s George Osborne’s spending cutbacks, will be music indeed to the ears of local residents!

Heathrow is one of the world’s busiest airports with 65 million passengers now using the airport every year in 360,000 arrivals and departures.  Intolerable volume levels likely to lead to noise induced hearing loss, as a result of increased airplane takeoffs and landings, has been the biggest issue for the residents of Spelthorne, a member of the Local Authorities Air Noise Council (LAANC), which was founded in the 1960s as an umbrella local authority organisation representing the residents around Heathrow airport.

The two existing main runways are orientated West/East at the North and South of the airport with, airplanes in general, taking off and landing into the wind on westerly operations for approximately 75% of the time.

To share the burden of noise pollution and possible hearing damage inflicted, runway usage is alternated at different time periods. The system is further alternated on a weekly basis. This alternation only happens on westerly operations whilst easterly operations departures occur throughout the day on the southern runway and is the reason that Stanwell residents suffer periods of incessant noise. From 1999, the runway alteration system was introduced into the night period.

Noise created on take-off is measured at fixed monitors. According to the UN World Health Organization, WHO, environmental noise must not surpass 65 dB during the daytime and 45 dB at night. If an aircraft exceeds the set limits by up to three decibels, the airline is fined £500. If the limit exceeded is greater than three decibels, the fine is £1000. For safety reasons, no system of fining is imposed on aircraft landing.

Although night flights, (principally, arrivals), continue to disturb some residents there has never been a complete ban on the quota of night flights at Heathrow Airport. The night quota period, between 11.30pm to 6am, is part of a system of quotas that regulates both the overall number of movements and a supplementary quota system depending on the loudness of individual aircraft, aggregated to a total.